A Bump in the Road

…about which the author shares a rather personal moment…

When I shattered my ankle, many of the roads that comprise my life sharply and painfully altered course, careening toward a strange off-ramp into that territory of recovery and healing. It was not where I planned on being, but it is where I am. Fighting where I find myself would be utterly silly, so I’m not fighting it. Not me. I’m a trooper.

This change — from 100 per cent able bodied to, well, less than that —  was stunning in its suddenness. What did I do? I blithely pulled up my metaphorical socks and got on with it. Accidents happen: take a minute, breathe. Whatever is required, do it.

At no time did I overlay any meaning into what happened. At no time have I interpreted this incident to be anything other than a dumb household accident. This accident is ONLY an accident, nothing more and nothing less, no big karmic reason behind it, no big huge meaning.  That is not to say I cannot learn during the recovery process.

And it’s going well. I am off of crutches. I have returned to the gym with a list from the physiotorturers of the exercises that I can and cannot do. I’ve battled cabin fever and numb-bum syndrome with equal equanimity: all part of the process. And being a woman who does not easily cry, I survived the shedding of a few tears in public, too.

But there’s a bump ahead; a small near hour-long surgical procedure. The surgery will halt my progress for a bit: a week for the cut, six weeks — give or take — for the effects of general anaesthesia. Being informed helps to prepare for it. So they say.

My pre-op appointment is now scheduled and the surgery date draws close.

I thought I was good with this. It’s hardly serious. Not like I am living in an earthquake zone, or a war zone, or battling cancer, or a chronic illness or suffering in any way. Small stuff my stuff is.

Small is big

At the gym, I was doing some leg presses: first one leg then the other. Just like the other day. But not like before the accident. Ten pound weight on the machine when I used to do 110 lbs. (Yes, it’s an American machine)  My good leg, good ankle, good knee first. After three months of not being at the gym, and the burden of holding up all of my body, my right side had some challenge doing the work, but got through it ok. It hurt good, stretching those muscles differently. Then time to use my left leg.  The one where the muscles are, well, not anything like they used to be.

My left ankle, calf and thigh all trembled, more than earlier in the week when I did the same machine, same exercise. It wasn’t exactly matching the image in my mind. I was glad of the cap I had on and lowered my head as I struggled to press the chair back: the brim of the cap hid my eyes and in that moment, covered the tears that sprang from disappointment and pride. Did I say I am not a woman who easily cries? I bit my bottom lip to stop it from trembling. My chin trembled instead.

I finished the set of eight repetitions and immediately curled over my knees in frustration and anger, seeking to avoid the wave that was about to hit, the wave of wanting what I couldn’t have right then: my life back, my left ankle to be like my right ankle, my strength back, to run, to dance around, to walk and jump around with my dog. The whole of the last three months, my sense of loss was overwhelming and unbearable. This small thing felt, in that moment, insurmountable.

My gym partner came over then to tell me that she’d be heading for the steam room as planned. I could not hide the fact that there were tears streaming down my face. She touched my shoulder and hand-signalled for me to stop. I shook my head. No way was I stopping.

She pulled out her Ipod earphones. I stopped the music on my shuffle. “If it’s hurting you, stop,” she said.

I didn’t trust myself to speak so I shook my head again and started the next set of reps for my right leg. She stood there.

“Okay, I’ll wait for you.”

I shook my head again, took in a deep breath and said in a voice stronger than what I felt, “no, go. I’ll see you when I’m done.”

She looked uncertain, concern everywhere on her face.

“I’m fine,” I said. The sound of my voice in my ears was excruciating.

It was not possible for me to tell her that it wasn’t about the pain. “I have to do this,” I said. And it was true. If I stopped then I would have forever been defeated.

Pain is temporary. It leaves you. You only remember that it hurt. The momentary assault to my sense of identity? Of self-sufficiency? Limits to my abilities? In that moment, crushing. Irrational. Immature. It wasn’t leaving me, either.

I feared I would not heal. I feared I would forever have a limp from something so fucking stupid as falling the wrong way off of a 20″ stool. (Apparently defensive falling might have helped).

No matter. I couldn’t say any of that. I couldn’t say I wasn’t feeling terribly resilient.

But the pause had helped me regain my composure. My tears had dried. I pushed on through to complete the rest of my workout, shocked at the level of feeling raging inside.

The surgeon and the phsyiotorturers had informed me from the beginning that full recovery would be a long while. But being informed and actually knowing what something means are two different things; until that moment, I did not KNOW it, did not comprehend what that means for the next 15 months or so.

That looming surgery is going to impede progress, set me back, kill off any gains of the past two weeks. And it brought forth a mental image of the me that could with the reality of the me that can’t for the moment; my usual, normal taken-for-granted ease of being in my body: lost. gone. My ability to do what I want, when I want and how I want, lost. Gone for a bit.

The bump in the road…has unsettled me mightily. It shouldn’t really. None of this should. It’s a broken body part for goodness sake.  I have been well cared for and helped.

I had a moment. A recognition. An overwhelming sense of loss. I touched yet again more proof of impermanence, the ever-changing nature of life; saw again how life is both too long and too short. Nothing is permanent for anything longer than perhaps a lifetime. Not even this fear of always going to be this way.

And so, I am heading to the gym again in a few minutes and will be back on that machine.

I’ll be damned if I cry this time.


About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween.
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